How Do You Measure Democracy?

The article End-times For Liberal Democracy interviews Yascha Mounk, a political theorist at Harvard University, about the declination of liberal democracy in recent years. In this article, Mounk argues that due to rising economic anxieties and religious as well as ethnic tension, there have been groups who felt their rights are not protected or their opinions are not represented in democracy. The inclination of populist authoritarianism and setting examples of success such as Russia also influence states to model themselves after.

Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo, whose studies focus specifically on the origin of democracy, make the same argument on their article published by The New York Times in May 2018. However, Albertus and Menaldo did not call out the societal shifters as Mounk suggested; they analyzed the constitutional root of democracy and argued that originally “democratic constitutions are frequently designed by the outgoing authoritarian regime to safeguard incumbent elites from the rule of law and give them a leg up in politics and economic competition after democratization.” 1

Although the two articles make the same argument about the continuance of democracy, they talk about very substantially different ideas on the reasons why democracy is on a declining trend. While Mounk believes that democracy, in its procedural and substantive definitions, protects their citizens’ rights and suffrage, Albertus and Menaldo looked directly into the foundation of democracy and blame its founders on the lack of majority rights protection. A specific example that both articles give is Hungary. Albertus and Menaldo blame their constitution, and Mounk blames corruption. 2

1 James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood,  Current Debates in Comparative Politics (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019). 

2 Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo, “Why Are So Many Democracies Breaking Down?” The New York Times (May 08, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/opinion/democracy-authoritarian-constitutions.html.